Image © Julie Wilkinson
Herbal therapy is one of the oldest forms of complementary medicine. Echinacea, garlic and ginger are commonly known medicinal herbs used in the kitchen, but when was the last time you used some turmeric? Turmeric is a part of the ginger family and is responsible for the bright yellow coloring of some fabulous dishes, such as curry.
Alongside other notable studies, Johns Hopkins is currently researching curcumin, a specific plant chemical (known as a phytochemical) in turmeric, to establish a link between this herb and the reduction of colon polyp size. Specifically, the study is looking at adults with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a hereditary condition that dramatically increases the sufferers chances of developing colon cancer.
If left untreated, certain polyps mutate into colon cancer, which is why routine screening exams, such as the colonoscopy, aim to catch them early.
Several clinical trials have already found a link between curcumin and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties in animals. Phase II trials are underway to establish the safe upper doses of this common herb in humans.
Like any other drug, herbs can have side effects and interactions with prescription medications. If you are considering using herbal medicine, talk to your doctor before making any decisions or taking a dietary supplement on your own. Your doctor will be able to discuss side effects, interactions and warnings with you and help you make a safe, informed decision.
In the meantime, you can try a dash of turmeric in scrambled tofu dishes. It makes the tofu sunny yellow like scrambled eggs without imparting much flavor - great for tofu-haters like my sons. According to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Research Center, there are no known adverse events while using turmeric as part of a healthy diet at this time.